renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
My library ordered some books for me, so now I am in possession of six October Daye books. Here is the proof. Odds on how long it's gonna take me to plow through all of these? (One is done, but finished too late to end up in this column; it's possible you heard me screeching in agony.)

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're excited to welcome [ profile] justira to Lady Business to talk about Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Ira is an awesome illustrator, writer, and web developer. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.

lime green cover of Grasshopper Jungle with two lines forming a V to denote the antenna of a grasshopper

I want to say that Grasshopper Jungle did one thing well but—honestly, I can't. I want to like that it has a bisexual protagonist and a love triangle that never collapses but I can't call the love triangle well done when one of its legs is underdeveloped and treated so poorly by the narrative. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Grasshopper Jungle blends pulpy—almost kitschy—Cold War era sci fi, a historical immigration account, and a small-town coming of age story. It's also written by someone who self-admittedly knows nothing about female folks, which is a bit unfortunate seeing as one of the alleged main characters is female. The novel fell flat or me in almost every aspect, with only a few bright notes: sometimes the writing and substance came together to say something interesting about the human impulse towards history-making, and the relationship between the protagonist, Austin, and his best friend, Robby, is well-developed and well-sustained. However, this is all embedded in a narrative that not only features rape apologia and massive fat shaming, but also constantly fails its female characters. And to top off that parade, the apocalyptic premise never manages to quite gel with the beating teenaged heart of the story.

I should be happy that a book with a bisexual protagonist is getting so much attention. But I can't support a book that fails on so many social and technical levels.

Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of Unspoken cover of Untold cover of Unmade

I flew through The Lynburn Legacy in two weeks. I can hear everyone going, "that word, I don't think it means what you think it means, Renay" right now, but all the other things in my life, two weeks for a trilogy is a big deal. Considering I start trilogies and never finish them (how long has Bitterblue been on my shelf? Don't ask. Mostly because I couldn't tell you, it's been that long.) "flew" absolutely works in this context. I was surprised that this series worked for me so well given my preferences about love triangles (i.e. short walk, long pier) and my capacity to handle literary heartbreak. But I— liked it a lot? I was really entertained!
  • sassy teenagers
  • broody love interests! with different flavors of brood!
  • interesting parental relationships
  • badass team of ladies!
  • girls being friends!
  • kissing!
  • telepathy!
  • the complications of mind-reading powers!

I found this so delightful.

The premise of Unspoken, the first book in the trilogy, is that Kami Glass, who lives with her family in Sorry-in-the-Vale, hears a boy in her head. She's had Jared in her head her whole life, and he's had her in his. They know each other intimately and they're always there for each other, just a thought away. Meanwhile, Kami's world is expanding because the mysterious Lynburns, who the whole town speaks of in awe, have returned to Sorry-in-the-Vale after years away, and she and her school newspaper are in the perfect position to break the story. BUT SUDDENLY, Jared's not just a voice in her head anymore. no explicit spoilers, just a lot of complaining about rural university education and my ongoing misunderstanding of genre. )

This series was really fun. I suppose this means I should reread and then finish the series that The Demon's Lexicon started, like a responsible series reader. Oh, and apparently Sarah Rees Brennan has another book coming out next year that sounds excellent, Tell the Wind and Fire.

(Yes, I am going to read Bitterblue this year, friends. PUT THOSE PITCHFORKS DOWN. I'M DOING IT I SWEAR.)
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[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're excited to welcome [ profile] justira back to to Lady Business to talk about Mockingjay Part 1. Ira is an awesome illustrator, writer, and web developer who gained their powers by consuming the bones of their enemies. They make art, comics, and writing when they are not distracted by way too many video games. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.

Mockingjay's recent release to DVD has reignited my ambivalence towards the movie— don't get me wrong, it's great having another female-led spec fic film, especially one with Natalie Dormer running support. But the film suffered a critical lack; the ghost of the movie it could have been hovered over the film for me: the film lacked confidence. The story — the book — is, at its core, part social commentary and part inspection of PTSD. But the film adaptation lacked the boldness to pull a full genre shift, or make up for Collins's shortcomings as a writer. Spoilers for the books and movies up through Mockingjay Part 1 and its equivalent part of the book follow.

What the movie should have done was listen to its own message more. It should have listened to Haymitch.

Haymitch explains how to use Katniss effectively.

Haymitch criticized Plutarch's effort at making Mockingjay propos: they were falling flat and felt artificial. What they needed to do — what the movie needed to do — was get inside Katniss's head, inspect the authentic intersection of her internal world and the world around her. Katniss's commodification had to be contingent upon her authenticity in order to function as intended. That's when the propos were the most genuine and effective. That's when the movie shone. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
What does it mean when a book is released as YA fantasy in one country but adult fantasy in another? What IS epic fantasy, anyway? Should everyone read One Piece (YES)? Does it matter if most of the awesome parts of a book have to be found in hindsight and require qualification? Are revenge narratives over kingdoms even interesting anymore? Does Joe Abercrombie like pain and suffering to the exclusion of everything else*? Renay and Ana from The Book Smugglers tackle these questions and more using thousands and thousands of words.

* lies; we don't tackle this at all, because the answer is obviously yes.

cover and blurb although the blurb got a little overwhelmed with itself )


Renay: So, that happened. Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
book cover for Orleans shows female character standing on top of a building looking at a city

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

Spoilers )

Other Reviews

The Book Smugglers
Dear Author
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover and summary )

I love when my social media folks give me surprise recommendations that I love. Pretty sure I owe [ profile] fozmeadows for this one. I had completely forgotten about this book until her recommendation.

This book reminded of of all the contemporary romances I read as a teenager with bonus SF elements. These Broken Stars is the first book in the loosely connected Starbound trilogy. Tarver, a very young war hero who earned rank through military action and Lilac, the daughter of the head of LaRoux Industries, get thrown together when the spaceship falls out of hyperspace.

They're saved by Lilac's rebel engineering skills and their escape pod rams into a unknown planet. Tarver and Lilac, at odds due to Lilac's determination to be an asshole to all men because of ~mysterious~ reasons she convinced will save their lives, have to survive and seek out rescue. With their communications systems destroyed and hoping for a miracle, they make their way to the utter wreckage of their spaceship on a terraformed planet that shouldn't even be there. They handle the wildlife, the weather, Lilac attempting a multi-day hike in heels, and also Lilac hearing eerie voices. Best camping trip ever!

For some reason I thought there was going to be more romance-in-space happening, but it's not really in space. Space is just the glue that sticks Tarver and Lilac together and hurtles them toward their ~destiny~. This reminded me of a wilderness adventure story. There's a lot of roughing it, a lot of walking, tons of post traumatic stress, and disembodied voices in the shadows. It was probably only scary because I find woods inherently terrifying at night, but yeah, I totally turned on extra lights. I learned my lesson from House of Leaves.

75% of this book is angst. The majority of it comes from Lilac, not Tarver, who is pretty well-adjusted and calm until the last quarter of the novel. Congratulations, book! You surprised me. Tarver and Lilac were a great match. I was rooting for them for the very beginning, through all the snark and yelling and wild rescues and slow development of trust. I didn't expect to like Tarver, because I am coldhearted and unyielding to the boys and men in YA fiction a lot of the time because I find them unbearable. But he was really fantastic, a solid support for Lilac. He never attempts to undermine her or make her feel broken or useless.

Although I liked Lilac's sections of the book more than Tarver's, the quick hits of the interrogation between the alternating chapters were where he really shines. The book really subverts the insolent, asshole trope by showing us Tarver when he's presenting a front to the world, and then showing us the Tarver who just wants to keep himself and Lilac alive. They're both hugely self-sacrificing. It's pretty adorable.

This book is either doing some really fascinating things or else I am just reading too much into the narrative, as I am wont to do when I latch on to something I love. The amount of parental control here is scary. Lilac's friends are people set by her father to watch her or bodyguards hired to protect her. Her freedom is limited, even among so-called peers, and the autonomy is nonexistent. There's a scene in the beginning of the book where Lilac, spurred on by her flock of friends because she knows they'll rat her out, viciously cuts Tarver down for daring to want to spend time with her. And perhaps it would be less affecting if I hadn't been on the receiving end of that sort of peer pressure, where there's something you want to do, someone you want to reach out to, but social necessity and severe personal consequences won't let you. Hello, all the cute girls I could have been making out with over the years! I'm sorry I was a dick to you just because my friends didn't like you/were scared of associating with lesbians. D:

light spoilers for book undertones/bad guys )

The book also raises the question I hated most from my philosophy classes about what makes a person the same person they were before some kind of catastrophic event — their body or their memories. I had so many screaming debates with friends about this with diagrams included (and at one notable debate, when a professor joined our discussion, called him a pretentious gasbag...yeah, I'm super classy). We were totally those annoying freshman having loud philosophical discussions about the integrity of memory, how energy couldn't be destroyed but only redistributed, and what cloning really means for personhood in the middle of the cafeteria or library lobby. I wish I could give this book to my younger self; she would have obsessed.

Definitely a fun, thinky ride. I'm a little disappointed that the next book in the trilogy is about a different set of characters, but I will hope for a tiny cameo/name drop from the authors just so I know Tarver and Lilac are doing okay (THEY BETTER BE DOING OKAY, AUTHORS.).

I want there to be fanfic of Lilac getting hired by a rival industry to build sexy interstellar ships and teaching Tarver how to hotwire hotrod spaceships. Can that be a thing now? Because I'm so there.

Other reviews )
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[personal profile] helloladies
cover for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

'Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.' (source)


Read more... )

Other Review )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
Raven render in bold black strokes of a paintbrush with a glowing red center.

"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you’re his true love…or you killed him."

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore (source).

Seriously, screw this book, all its feelings, its twists that gutted me, and its characterizations that made me want to rip my heart out and chuck it across the room so I could just stop the misery. Fuck this book for having, apparently, three follow ups, the second of which only came out this September. My rage over the fact that I'll have to wait yet another year for more after The Dream Thieves is eclipsed only by my love of these characters as they find each other, discover one another's secrets, and begin to tie themselves together with friendship and magic. Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
book cover shows sillouhette of female character and Empire State building - above it blue tinged clouds and silhouettes of birds and above the clouds an greenand blue picture of space - tag reads One choice will change her life forever

'2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can't travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She's an 'ape', a 'throwback', but this is one ape girl who won't give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself — as a normal child of Military parents — and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra's role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates — a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.' (source)

Read more... )

Other Reviews

The Book Smugglers
Phoebe North at Strange Horizons
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
A grayscaled image of a girl in a vibrant blue feathered mask staring out at the reader

Karou is an art student with blue hair and a penchant for drawing monsters in her sketchbooks. She lives in Prague, and divides her time between school, her best friend Zuzuna, trying to avoid her lousy ex-boyfriend, and her adopted family — all of which are represented in her sketchbook: a gallery full of chimaera. They're fantastic and unbelieveable, part human and part beast, but very real. She doesn't know who she is, but she often wonders about her past and her future when so much of her life is running errands through doorways that lead all over the world to collect teeth for her adoptive family of chimaera, specifically Brimstone, the closest thing she has to a father. When she steps through the doorway to Marrakesh on a regular trip, everything she knows about herself, Brimstone, her family, and her life changes.

The middle of this book was like a doorway, in fact, and when I stepped through my first reaction was "WTAF?" followed by: I AM DISAPPOINT.

I really considered making that my entire summation of my feelings on this novel, then decided it would be a waste of a chance to make Ana gleeful if I didn't share my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thoughts regarding this story (you're welcome, Ana). This book was like a great date that's going well. Everything is flowing, conversation is good, there's a subtle attraction and maybe you're thinking of how low your condom supply is. Then something terrible happens and you end up going home alone because of bad touch or the realization that maybe you don't really want to date a self-proclaimed hoarder or [insert nightmare scenario here]. And also, it's raining. And maybe you left your cellphone at the bar accidentally and then your wallet gets stolen and it's just utter crap and you feel cheated and the entire universe sucks. Spoiler goggles equipped — let's proceed into the abyss of my sadness.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
It's long, it's opinionated, it's full of capslock. It's Ana and Renay discussing John Green's most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, only a few months after the rest of the internet has moved on to and past the Olympics, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate slash, and the Teen Wolf Season Two finale. We cover spoilers, cancer narratives, ageism, anti-intellectualism, Immanuel Kant (in translation), the wild descent into poetry as teenagers, and fail to discuss any of the interesting metaphors and easter eggs John left in his novel in favor of explicating the internet. Put on your tl;dr belts and spoiler goggles, because here we go!

blue cover of with the title of the book inside a solid black cloud overlapping a white cloud with the name of the author inside

Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
plain white and gray cover featuring a girl in a green dress pressing against a glass bubble she's encased within

Matched by Ally Condie: Cassia trusts the Society to make good decisions for her: what to eat, what to read, how to care for herself and who, ultimately, she should love and marry. When the Society matches her with Xander, a childhood friend, she's sure that he is her ideal match. She feels lucky to know her Match. Later, she attempts to learn more about Xander, and instead of seeing his face on her screen she sees the face of Ky Markham, a boy on the edges of her social group. The Society tells her this is an isolated incident, a breakdown in the system, and to focus on her future with Xander. Unfortunately, spurred on by doubts laid by her grandfather and her own curiosity about Ky, Cassia can't help but wonder about paths she might take without the Society to guide her way. She can't help but wonder about a future, not with Xander, but with Ky. She can't help but wonder about a future with the luxury of choice.

The farther away from this story I get, the more I am torn. There should be a word for a book that is both predictable and pedestrian, and yet somehow still compelling. I picked it up on a whim at the library when they didn't have Under the Never Sky (HEARTBREAKING), remembering that there was some kerfuffle about it and some other similar book, plus that it had sold for some ridiculous amount of money and I wanted to know what in the world publishers were throwing their money at these days.Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing

So, ‘Tankborn’...oh, this review is going to be a long one. I hope you can stick with me!

Karen Sandler’s ‘Tankborn’ is set in the intriguing, fictional world of Loka, a planet which Sandler’s characters colonised when Earth became uninhabitable. The characters in ‘Tankborn’ live on the continent of Svarga, which appears to be the only inhabited continent on Loka. Svarga’s society is rigidly structured; inherited economic status dictates a person’s place in society, the respect due to them and the districts of the continent that they are allowed to live in. The highest level of society is inhabited by the trueborns, humans born with inherited wealth waiting for them. Within the trueborn grouping there are three economic divisions; high-status, demi-status and minor status trueborns. This hierarchy was reportedly created by the varying contributions that each section of society made to re-establishing society on Loka:

‘It all had to do with how they’d started on Loka, the richest taking the top of the pile, all of them the same lovely colour as Devak – she pushed him out of her mind again- then that middle group that eventually settled into demi and the rest into minor-status. The lowborns has been in servitude from the start, so they were easy to understand, although a few of them has close to that cherished skin colour, the sekai said….

The non-humans were at the bottom of the pile, of course.’

As you can probably tell from the quote I’ve shared, economic status on Loka often intersects with skin colour. High-status trueborns often exhibit a particular skin colour, which due to its associations with wealth and power has become ‘that cherished skin colour’, in the same way that some skin colours are often idealised in our own world. While many real life cultures often idealise the white skin colour, or a pale skin colour, on Svarga the ideal skin colour is described as ‘a rich medium brown’. Interesting, right? I’ve seen authors such as Bernadine Evaristo and Mallorey Blackman write novels about alternate universes, where they attempt to highlight racial power imbalances through satire by making white people the dis-empowered class and black characters rulers, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a novel position people with dark skins as the societal elite and make the majority of lower status skin colours that skin a colour that falls in between the poles of white and black.

Sandler’s author note explains that the culture of ‘Tankborn’ is ‘…inspired by my long-ago conversations with an Indian born co-worker named Azad…I’d been fascinated by Indian society and that caste system for decades…’. I know a little about that caste system, but I don’t pretend my knowledge is extensive, so I can’t examine whether there are problems with the way she applies this real life version of caste to her sci-fi world, or whether this particular interpretation will satisfy readers who know more about the Indian caste system than me. What I can say is that by using a different configuration of race and economic status Sandler ensures that the majority of the book is about characters that have black, or brown skin colouring. White people don’t often feature in the conversation this book is having with its readers (although there is one white character side character, who is a villain, but by no means the only villain) and that is refreshingly different in a world where a large percentage of the novels published focus near exclusively on white characters.

The racial composition of Svarga’s society becomes an especially exciting concept if you consider what it may suggest about the society of the Earth the early Lokans originally came from. As far as I can work out none of the main characters are white (like I said, there’s a white character who appears a few times, but his role in the story is limited) and being pale white seems to be extremely uncommon, much less common than in the real life western world. Perhaps the reader is intended to believe that the early settlers of Svarga came from a fictional version of Earth that resembled our world, but that only one country, or continent with a population where it is more common to have darker skin tones (say India, as the social hierarchy is based on Indian caste system) survived. Alternatively, Sandler could be deliberately writing an inverse vision of the pervasive, near all white dystopias, which seem to believe that there will be no (or very few) people with dark skin in the future, so the logic behind why most of Svarga’s population displays varying degrees of brown skin colour isn’t important.

These ideas are never explicitly verified in the text, or author’s note, so I’d like to suggest a third interpretation. Based on the racial makeup of Svargan society and the fact that the upper echelons of society have dark skin, it’s possible that the Earth which Loka’s people left behind, was totally different from our own world, with a different racial makeup. Perhaps the Earth the characters in ‘Tankborn’ mention is as much a sci-fi/future projecting creation as Loka is. I’m more used to seeing dystopian novels where a terrible catastrophe has befallen our own world and it’s exciting to see a sci-fi author potentially change that up, making the entire basis of her fictional world a science fictional (and racially progressive) concept1.

It’s important to note that Loka isn’t totally segregated by skin colour. Racial segregation seems to apply mostly to trueborns; high-status trueborns generally have the coveted skin colour, while trueborns with lighter or darker skin colours seem to end up as demi-status, or minor-status trueborns. Colour privilege is certainly part of this society, at both trueborn level and lower down in society. Still, some lowborns have the coveted trueborn skin colour, but remain in their economic class, while some high-status trueborns exhibit skin colours that are seen as less desirable (like white, or dark black). Demi and minor-status trueborns, may buy their way into a higher level of society by securing adhikar land (precious land gifted to trueborns at birth, as their inherited right). Economic status is, I think, the defining factor in Sandler’s society, although skin colour plays an important part in deciding a character’s ranking within the higher reaches of society.

The sci-fi society that Sandler has created is highly complex and one of the best bits of ‘Tankborn’ in my opinion, so excuse me while I delay talking about the specifics of plot and continue to chat on about that aspect. The heroine of ‘Tankborn’, Kayla, is a GEN; a Genetically Engineered Non-Human. GENs are a despised group who make up the bottom layer of Loka’s economic caste system, but also fall outside of this structure. While the trueborn and lowborns who populate Loka are all locked into their own pre-defined economic and social places, they are all born as free citizens. GENs are created by trueborn scientists (they grow in a tank, hence the name of the novel) so that one day they may serve society. They are controlled by enforcers, monitored by a tracking system and confined to living in certain sectors, unless they’re serving on assignment. While they aren’t chained and are supposedly protected by human rights edicts, GENs are effectively slaves.

I’ve read books before that feature a genetically engineered under class, like Paulo Bacigalupi’s ‘The Windup Girl’, but nonetheless I think the GEN’s of ‘Tankborn’ allow for a new exploration of how society enslaves people. Kayla and others like her are made using manipulated DNA, which allows them to grow a special kind of archived brain section. This part of their brain, which can be accessed by pressing technology called a data pack to a tattoo on their cheek, is used to upload their slave assignments and to reset a GEN if they act in a way their captors disapprove of. As the book progresses and the reader finds out much more about the creation of GENs, the development of them as a sci-fi concept becomes the most fascinating aspect of the novel. The GENs have religion, a liturgy which has been given to them by their creators, but has been sincerely embraced by the GENS themselves. The religion contains the idea that ‘suffering makes us great and will bring rewards in the next life’, a powerful rhetorical argument which was used to control the poor of England in the eighteenth century. So, here we have a group of slaves whose minds are controlled from birth through rhetoric and religion, who are then physically controlled through a genetic modification to their minds, which can be accessed by technology. The reader gets both an interesting and effectively disturbing sci-fi metaphor and a realistic, disturbing exploration of how constructs of reason can be used to control.

At the beginning of the book Kayla is approaching her fifteenth year, the time when GENs receive their first assignment and start to work. GENs are changed, or genned, in the tank to have special, enhanced skills (skets) that enable them to carry out tasks which society needs a labour force to complete. According to their sket, they take places with high-status trueborns, or work in industries run by demi and minor-status trueborns, or work as apprentices in the GEN community with healers or nurturers. Kayla has been genned with strength and she expects to be assigned to a fetch and carry type of assignment. She is therefore surprised to find herself assigned as carer to a high-status trueborn Zul Manel. She is even more surprised to find out that his grandson, Devak Manel, is a dreamy trueborn boy she met briefly when he helped her little brother, right at the beginning of the book.

I want to take a moment to take a moment here to talk about Kayla’s family. As GENs aren’t born, but built in a tank, GEN children are raised by older GENs who have been given an enhanced care-giving sket. Kayla lives with her GEN mother Tala and her brother Jal. Although only fifty or so pages are devoted to their family life, before Kayla leaves her family (after which Kayla gains the traditional independence, many YA protagonists need so they can go adventuring) their relationships feel believable, close and established. Jal is an especially lively character and the inter-play between him and Kayla reads as the affectionate teasing often found between siblings:

‘ “So what happened with that high-status boy?”

“Nothing. He just asked if you were okay.”

“He was smiling at you.”

A hot flush rose in Kayla’s face. “He wasn’t!”

Jal guffawed. “I saw him. I was watching from behind the kel-grain warehouse.”

“You were supposed to run home!”

“I did. After I saw you making eyes at him.” '

I adored this section of the book and wished there could have been more time spent looking at the family, even though I understand why this might have put obstacles in the way of plot. Later in the book the Manels are portrayed as a much more troubled family and these relationships, while often broken also feel extremely genuine. The family members act like real people who have spent their whole lives together, rather than characters that have been shoved into the same house. The creation of family relationships is one of the real strengths of ‘Tankborn’.

Now, here comes the part of the review where I try to explain why despite the intriguing sci-fi, the likeable female protagonist and the believable family relationships, ‘Tankborn’ often felt like it was fudging it’s creation of humanity and society. As always, my feelings are complicated.

Unusually, for me, my feelings about ‘Tankborn’ are impinged on by other novels that I’ve read. There’s no doubt that I had more questions about the way the world of ‘Tankborn’ worked, because I read it straight after I’d finished ‘Page from a Tennessee Journal’ by Francine Thomas Howard. Howard’s novel is a piece of historical fiction which presents a difficult examination of a relationship between a black woman who takes over her husband’s duties, sharecropping for a white man and the white man himself, who uses his racial privilege to oppress and abuses her, while believing he is romancing her. I found myself comparing the real life world of this particular historical novel to the sci-fi world of ‘Tankborn’ because ‘Tankborn’ features a romantic relationship between a member of an oppressed GEN class, Kayla and a member of Svarga’s elite, power class, Devak.

Devak differs from the privileged male character in ‘Page from a Tennessee Journal’ because he isn’t physically, or mentally abusive towards Kayla. He has been raised by his grandfather to treat GENs with respect, although, due to competing socialised training from his father and peers, he sometimes stumbles in this progressive behaviour. As Devak is kind and exceptionally progressive compared with much of the rest of his society, I had no problem believing that once Kayla fell in love with him, they could have a kind and equal relationship. However, I did think that Kayla fell in love with Devak really fast and easily, considering that he is still a member of a class which holds all the GENs down. In fact, Devak’s links to GEN abuse are even stronger than other high-status trueborns as his father is in charge of controlling the GENs, using the tracking Grid to monitors the movements of GENs who stray outside their assigned areas. Kayla doesn’t even fully realise that Devak harbours progressive feelings about GENs, until late on in the book when he shows that he’s in love with her as well. She constantly feels he must be revolted by her and he is often gruff when he speaks to her. Considering all these factors I would have expected her to feel more conflicted over the fact that she was falling in love with him.

There are totally plausible reasons why Kayla is still able to love with Devak, despite believing herself inferior to him and despite the fact that Devak often struggles to be nice to her. Novels like ‘Wench’, by Dolen Perkins-Valeez, explore why a slave might still love their oppressors. The kind of reasons Perkins-Valeez presents (internalised racism, or trickery and deceit on the part of the oppressor) don’t seem to apply to Kayla and Devak. Maybe their love has more to do with old standards about love: the heart wants what it wants, you can’t choose who you love etc, etc. I can get behind that. Sometimes reason can’t be appealed to when it comes to love, or maybe sometimes reason doesn’t even have to factor in when you find the right partner, no matter who they are. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Kayla and Devak are still in monumentally different positions and that Kayla has spent her whole life being oppressed by members of Devak’s class, who have reset GENs at whim. While I wouldn’t expect their different status’ to be a problem for a progressive boy with trueborn status, I did expect to see Kayla experience a little internal conflict. Examining the problems of your relationship and experiencing worry, or concern about the future of this relationship, doesn’t have to come at the expense of romance and it would be nice to see this novel acknowledge that.

Maybe her sudden and simple feelings towards him are just another case of the ever popular insta-love, or it could be argued that as Sandler is writing a piece of science fiction Kayla’s lack of freedom and Devak’s mastery of GEN’s wouldn’t necessarily lead to the characters having the same kind of troubled feelings as unequal characters in a novel like ‘Pages from a Tennesse Journal’. I don’t know if anyone is making that argument, but I’m going to pissily pre-empt it anyway and say that my problem with this line of thinking stems from the fact that Sandler has (according to the author’s note) based the caste system in ‘Tankborn’ on real life social practises in India. I think that use of Indian culture is different and exciting; in fact it’s one of the things that attracted me to this book. However, if an author is going to use a real life style caste system, then they have to be prepared to follow the use of that caste system through to its logical, real world conclusions. There are plenty of places were the characters are allowed to address the anger that inequality and ill-treatment creates, for example Kayla is given a voice to argue about the treatment of GENS and lowborns, as well as trueborn power in general, for example in this extract where she and Devak discuss the lowborns:

‘ “I’m told what work I’ll do and where I’ll live,” she went on. “I’m only a fifteenth year, but the trueborns could have me sent clear across Svarga Continent, far away from my family, and I wouldn’t have had any choice.”

“It used to be that way with the lowborns,” he said, “when we first came here, Only the trueborns had the money to build the colony ships. The lowborns had to work for their passage, be servants to the trueborns when they arrived.”

“But the lowborns agreed to work for the trueborns. And they didn’t have to do that forever. Now they pick their own jobs, live where they like, how they like. So, why aren’t the lowborns trueborns now?”

“Because of the adhikar. Lowborns don’t own land.”

“Because they’re not allowed to.”

“But that’s how the lowborns want it. They don’t want to become trueborns, tied down by an adhikar parcel…”

“How many lowborns have you asked about that?” '

It’s clear that Kayla is less than perfectly accepting of her place in society and she mentions that all GENs experience conflict over the way that the system relegates them to service. Yet Kayla has no similarly troubled internal feelings about being attracted to a member of the oppressor class. This seems strange as I feel it would be in keeping with her questioning character for the novel to explore some of the emotional problems such a system might present to any couples trying to bridge the caste divide. Keeping this emotional response out of the novel, seems to me to be fudging; picking and choosing; shunting characters into peculiarly easy emotional acceptances that suit the conclusions the novel’s plot needs to arrive at, instead of allowing the story to embrace the full range of human (and GEN) emotions.

I know that each individual experience of oppression differs. Not everyone goes through the exact same troubled confusion over how to react to those who have benefited from their oppression. And I so don’t want to claim that the only valid reaction for Kayla to have about her feelings for Devak is internal conflict because he is a high-status trueborn. Still, I think because many people do go through that internal conflict, it seems kind of uncomfortable for a novel like ‘Tankborn’ to avoid addressing that somewhere. No one novel can encompass every variation of experience, but in the quest to represent individual experiences each novel also has to be careful not to block out emotional feeling in a way which reinforces troubling, dominant ideas. The idea that romantic love easily conquers social inequality, or that romantic love heals every rift is still so pervasive that I feel kind of sad every time a novel has the chance to redress that balance, without cutting its own romance off at the knees and just…doesn’t. At least that’s how I feel – comments are for alternate views.

For me, if a caste system forces people into slavery and a slave like Kayla doesn’t feel at least a little bit confused about having romantic feelings towards a member of the class that makes use of slaves, then I want some pretty firm reasons to explain why not. ‘Tankborn’ just doesn’t provide those kinds of reasons. When I read this novel shortly after reading realistic historical fiction like ‘Pages from a Tennessee Journal’ and ‘Wench’, which were so good at having characters examine unequal relationships and try to provide real2 reasons why these unequal relationships might still exist, it means that the society in ‘Tankborn’ inevitably looks a bit flat, a bit simplistic. I also think that if an author is going to make changes to the way that personal psychology works, then the logic behind those changes needs to be especially well worked out and explained. Authors may need to show their working, because in my opinion the heart of what makes it possible for readers to understand and care about a work of fiction, is usually the fact that characters act in recognisable ways and justifying themselves when they don’t act in ways the reader might understand. Without textual justification, it’s tough for readers to understand your character and once understanding is gone, I think empathy is out the window.

Returning to the plot, the third main, teenage character in ‘Tankborn’, is Kayla’s friend Mishalla. Mishalla is assigned to a mysterious work detail, where she cares for children who are spirited away by enforcers in the night. There are a couple of plots going on in this book, which eventually turn out to be related and while Mishalla is worrying about children being stolen away, Kayla is the recipient of some unauthorised data, which sets her on a path to help Devak’s grandfather in a mission she doesn’t fully understand until the end of the book.

Some spoilers from here on )

So, I’m kind of half and half on ‘Tankborn’; it all feels like a bit of an unpolished jumble to be honest. Some aspects, like the sci-fi and the world building are shiny and cool. Some aspects, like the emotions of the characters, lack textual justification and end up making the novel feel kind of flat. The ending, which reveals all the big secrets was great, although I wish it had been more focused on breaking a privileged system and helping the GENs, rather than fixing one particular aspect of that society without disturbing the greater hierarchy. The epilogue seems less than necessary and again leaves me confused about the characters emotions and actions.

Now to be honest, although I add a lot of big concept sci-fi YA dystopias to my wish list, I rarely read from that part of the sci-fi genre. The ‘What if love were banned?!’, ‘What if your eye colour could get you killed?!’ side of the genre appeals to me, but I often hear of problems with the most visible titles that put me off exploring further. I think it’s super unfortunate that the first one I’ve read in a long time and ended up critiquing in depth, a novel where none of the main characters are white that comes from Tu Books, a publisher focused on diversity. I bet I’d find similar problems with the logic and social construction in some of the many, many books from this part of the genre, which focus on white characters and are published by traditional publishers. And it’s great to see a new piece of sci-fi that contains lots of female characters with darker skin (and a publisher who puts one of those characters on the front cover). It's just that parts of ‘Tankborn’ just were not for me at all and I hope I’ve explained why as fully and transparently as possible, so that you can make your own mind up about this novel.

Other Reviews

Rhapsody in Books
The Intergalactic Academy
SF Signal

1 I can totally see how this construction of society is open to different readings than the ones I’m presenting here and I encourage you to bring them in the comments. I am the whitest white girl in the world, who is trying to learn about race and it is always best for the voices of people who know their stuff about race to be included alongside anything I might say.

2 if perhaps hard for a modern reader to understand

3 because GEN religion and social factors has conditioned them to belief in falsehoods, which would probably cause a lot of them to report the revolutionaries to the authorities, thereby destroying the revolution
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[personal profile] nymeth
A Wrinkle in Time original cover

My recent experience with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was a good reminder of why I should get back into the habit of rereading: my appreciation for the book deepened considerably on a second reading. I enjoyed it a lot the first time around, but this time there was even more to it than I remembered. The characters grabbed me more; the writing stood out in ways that it hadn’t before. This isn’t to say that I found it perfect, but it’s the kind of book I’ll happily spend a long time thinking about and trying to engage with.

I reread it so I could write a post about Mrs Which for the novel’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Revisiting the story while paying particular attention to the role one of the characters plays in it was a new approach for me, and something I really enjoyed doing. But of course, it didn’t exhaust all the things I wanted to say about A Wrinkle in Time, so here you have them: all my extra words.
Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of Eon with the silhouette of a girl wielding dual blades against a red background emblazoned with an iridescent dragon

Eon, a Dragoneye candidate, has spent years dedicating himself to the study of magic, blade and dragon arts in order to become the new apprentice Dragoneye of his year. With a disability from an accident in his youth, a hard master and little support, Eon seeks the power of the dragons while carrying a secret, one that could result in death. Eon, twelve year old Dragoneye candidate is actually Eona, sixteen year old girl, disguised as a boy because female use of Dragon Magic is forbidden, even though she has the power to see all the dragons. All her hopes and entire future is centered on keeping her true identity a secret.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn had a lot of elements that intrigued me and sat on my reading list for ages while I pined for it and read Stanley Fish instead. I especially love stories where people hide in the performance of other genders. I fell in love with the trope after I saw an excellent performance of Twelfth Night at my local university in 2007. For awhile there I was all over the concept. A girl, determined to fulfill her dreams regardless of social rules or how she is looked upon in society? A girl parading as a boy, fooling everyone and playing politics and amassing power? It's like catnip. So why didn't this book work for me? There are a few answers and two are full of spoilers.

Everyone has probably heard of Avatar: The Last Airbender by now, as the show has surpassed its targeted Nickelodeon audience to become a critical success with adults as well for it's nuanced and respectful portrayal of a culture that's nothing like I've ever experienced in my rural United States upbringing. Avatar blends thoughtful characterization with a plot so finely arranged it makes me flail in joy as well as grind my teeth in jealousy. It's set against a back drop of a fascinating and obviously well-researched fantasy culture inspired by East-Asian societies, plus tons of references to others that I am unable to pick out. I'd never experienced fantasy that's not flavored with medieval European monarchies before Avatar. I'm lazy and finding it is hard for someone like me, who is way more likely to stumble across as many problematic things as possible, love them, then discover how skeevy they actually are because I'm culturally illiterate (not a great reason, but an honest one). Avatar was a first for me and what a first it was. It's proof that non-white stories can be told well and be successful within the white media ocean we're up to our necks in. It's infinitely re-watchable and full of fun and joy and drama and political intrigue without ever recognizing that it's one of the few representations of non-white culture in the media landscape it inhabits. It doesn't explain itself; it just is. Ana and Jodie reviewed the first season in January and I sincerely hope they continue with the remainder of the series so then we can all watch Korra together and squee about it.

My problems with Eon began immediately. Part of the reason I loved Avatar was the way the Asian-inspired cultures were woven into the world-building and narrative. Things were explained, but in very natural way that spoke to the excellent story-telling Avatar episodes boasted. Although Avatar was created by two white men, it's extremely clear that they took pains to be respectful, thoughtful and subtle in how the narrative and the world unfolded. Unfortunately, Eon does the exact opposite. There's no discovery of the world. Eon spends the first two hundred pages in constant informational dumps that made me feel more and more uncomfortable. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about the East — my university had a gaping hole where those classes should have been. The farthest they went was Afghanistan in their course offerings, so most of what I do know is a cultural diffusion, a collection of stereotypes and shorthand that is no doubt wrong, incomplete and definitely offensive. I don't want to damn the book for not being Avatar because the mediums are different and thus, the experiences are going to be vastly different, but I didn't want China 101 to replace it. That's what the book felt like until midway through when it finally eased off to only crop up a few times every chapter; someone explaining a culture to me instead of telling a story. Instead of building these things into the narrative, it often feels as if Eon is explaining them, when this is the world in which he lives. I discussed this with [personal profile] samjohnsson, who asked me, "does the cultural flavor help with the immersion, or hinder."

The world-building, the very thing so many found exciting and interesting, kept me from investing in this book and tossed me constantly from the story. I could never dive in because it felt so much like "white person writes fantasy based on China! Look! ~Energy dragons~!" There was no immersion for me at all. I kept stumbling over commentary where it felt like Eon was talking to himself to explain the world he lived in, on and on throughout the story that yanked me immediately out. There was no discovering this world, this culture. It's going to be delivered to you in as many information dumps as possible under the guise of "explaining" things that it seems like someone who had spent their entire lives in a culture would already know and the reader could pick up on without being treated like they're dense. There has to be some element of explanation for a fantasy culture but surely there's a better way to integrate the explanations with the plot. I just find it boggling that although Eon studied so hard, and that his (abusive) master took so many risks, that he would still need things explained to him so thoroughly even up until the end of the book. The borrowed cultures are always being commented on, always aware of their difference and foreign nature to people who are likely reading the book. Thus, the comparison to Avatar which was never self-conscious about its story, tone, or world building. Eon is very clearly aware of itself and then fact that its readers are not as familiar with the specific culture beyond shorthand of the Chinese Zodiac and a general idea about how ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures worked. It doesn't feel genuine. The story would have been stronger if it had started at a different point, as well, revealed all the secrets Eon was keeping in a different way, and trusted the reader to pick up the vagaries of the culture as the story unfolded.

Of course, the book did attempt some interesting things with gender. Eon struggles with his identification throughout the novel, making it fairly obvious why the Mirror Dragon is unavailable. How do you live in a world in which your personal identity is a constant struggle, even beyond trying to hide it? Eon attempts to suppress Eona all through the story, denying every aspect of Eona's actuality. Because I am so uneducated on these types of issues I really have little right to comment on them at length, because I left the book more confused than anything else at the way gender binary is both subverted but then re-enforced. I couldn't figure out if the book was attempting to show that there was no reason for Eon to choose between the two identities because both were a part of him and important. There was also Lady Dela, a person with two spirits, who seemed to deal with the pressure of being physically male but spiritually a woman in a way that was extremely well done and nonjudgmental, to show Eon there is, as Ryko says at one point about the sexual proclivities of eunuchs, more than one way to skin a cat. I am more familiar with Native America versions of this, but I found it very ambitious and really liked her character. She was a mentor, smart, loyal, helpful, she doesn't die horribly, and she creates interesting discussion about gender that didn't feel like I was being bashed over the head with a lecture. It did, at one point, come down to a "I knew because I didn't like traditional boy things!" which I find hard to unpack for my own purposes. I have no clue how right/wrong a portrayal like that is — I am woefully undereducated about these issues. Of course, at times she suffered as a mouthpiece for the aforementioned "Let's Learn About China!" problem, as did the other character I liked, Ryko, a eunuch guarding Lady Dela at court, who was very obviously in love with Dela. I would definitely read a book about them on adventures, that's for sure. >.>

Now we come to the end, full of spoilers!

Read more... )

Eon didn't work out for me, but I am happy to see more books dealing with gender commentary and fantasy drawn from different cultures. I hope there will be more in the future, now that this series has proven so popular. But maybe next time we could get a story like this minus the terrible rape and erasure of disabled character parts.

That would be awesome.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe, Stella Matutina, Calico Reaction, Tempting Persephone, yours?
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[personal profile] bookgazing

‘One Crazy Summer’ is a simple novel. Rita Williams-Garcia’s story is written in the voice of an uncomplicated, but smart child narrator. It is easy to read, unconcerned with dazzling readers with complex literary techniques.

I expected ‘One Crazy Summer’ to be an interesting way to pass a few hours and a quick read. It was all of those things, but it was also so much more satisfying than those phrases imply. It’s been ages since I finished such an easy to read book, without the feeling of disappointment that comes from having read an average, or forgettable novel. It’s been a while since I’ve been so swept away by a story told using an ordinary narrative voice, without any added literary trickery1.

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are sent to spend the summer in Oakland with their estranged mother, Cecile, who left just after Fern was born. When the girls arrive it doesn’t take long for them to decide that Cecile is out of her mind crazy. She lives in a bizarre green stuccoed house, with a palm tree outside. She’s changed her name to Nzilla, which confuses Delphine because, in her eyes:

‘A name is important. It isn’t something you drop in the litter basket or on the ground. Your name is how people know you. The very mention of your name makes a picture spring to mind, whether it’s a picture of clashing fists or a mighty mountain that can’t be knocked down. Your name is who you are and how you’re known even when you do something great or something dumb.’

Cecile (as Delphine insists on calling her, despite this new name2) doesn’t cook like a regular mother; she shows no interest in her three children and is prone to mumbling angrily under her breath. When her daughters first arrive she sends the girls (Delphine is the oldest at twelve) through the unfamiliar streets by themselves in the dark to pick up take away food. The next morning she all but kicks them out of the house, so they can get a free breakfast from the People’s Centre, run by the Black Panthers and tells them not to come back until late evening. Cecile is not the mother they’ve all been hoping for; initially she’s even surpasses Delphine’s low expectations.

And Delphine feels she has every right to be cynical about what their mother can possibly offer them. Cecile’s absence has forced Delphine into a mature role at an early age. She spends a lot of time looking after her two sisters and their summer trip at first seems to provide no respite from that role. Vonetta has to be kept in line, fights have to be mediated and Delphine is soon in charge of the cooking after her sisters get sick from too much take away food. Being given such responsibility, apparently by default as the eldest, has given her the (substantiated) idea that she must remain the sensible, diplomatic sister to guide Vonetta and Fern through life, even though she’s only twelve years old herself. It’s unsurprising that Delphine’s narration is full of resentment for Cecile, which she unhealthily suppresses in a surprisingly accomplished, passive aggressive way for someone her age.

As the narrator of ‘One Crazy Summer’, Delphine’s negative feelings about Cecile could easily have made the book a reinforcement of society’s easy, anti-feminist ideas about women who leave their children and don’t appear to love their kids ‘as a mother should’. There’s no doubt that Delphine’s description of Cecile includes many negative comments, but Williams-Garcia also has her character include short memories from Delphine’s childhood to illustrate the restrictions placed on Cecile during her marriage. In one memory Delphine sees the walls of their house being painted over by her Papa. The reader previously learnt that the walls were covered in Cecile’s poetry. Delphine also recalls other moments, like her Papa’s call for ‘ “No more of these made up, different names.” ‘ when Cecile was deciding what to call her third daughter. These incidents show the reader that Cecile may have been battling against repressive forces at home and later her relationship with Delphine’s father is explained a little more, giving the reader insight into why a mother might leave her children, to help herself. Although the reader never fully knows why Cecile left her family it is clear that a clash between her creative, modern personality (she is a poet and a feminist who works with the Black Panthers) and her husband’s desire for her to be a normal mother had something to do with her departure when Fern was tiny.

As Delphine is so young and doesn’t fully understand the significance of the events that she remembers she can still be written as a daughter who feels uncompromising angry at a missing mother, without losing the reader’s sympathy. Delphine could have, like so many other young adult characters, been pushed into a place of false reconciliation, where she had to acknowledge the total validity of Cecile’s feelings and come to feel her own emotions were invalid when judged against issues of wider importance. What so impressed me about ‘One Crazy Summer’ was how skilfully it balanced the need to express Cecile’s valid reasons for leaving her family to the reader, as well as Delphine’s valid sadness at losing a mother, without making either person’s priorities feel less important than the other. I think Angie sums up why the inclusion of this kind of mother/daughter relationship is so interesting when she says:

‘I have certainly never read a children’s book that has a mother like Sister Nzilla – a mother who is neither a villain or a redeemed heroine, but who is person, on her own terms, struggling to find out what it means to be a mother and a free person.’3

The partial reconciliation the two achieve by the end of the book felt realistic, based on the hurts that both of them had experienced. There are no tearful breakdowns in this book, that require one character to reject the reality of their emotional state, but both characters are allowed to come to an understanding of each other, without either being requiring to fold rather than compromise. Instead, a quiet bond grows between Delphine and Cecile towards the end of the novel and their last conversation is a measured discussion about real things. I liked it so much for refusing to ladle on the dramatics.

I was especially interested in the impact of one event that contains no explicit blame (Cecile isn’t even present) but manages to emphasise just what Delphine has lost, by taking on the role of most responsible sister. A trip on a new friends go-cart, allows her to release her childish side as she flies free screaming and laughing downhill:

‘As the go-kart went faster, I felt the rumbling of the wheels hitting the concrete underneath me. I screamed. So loud I startled myself. I had never heard myself scream. Screamed from the top of my lungs, from the pit of my heart. Screamed like I was snaking and falling. Screamed and hiccuped and laughed like my sisters. Like I was having the time of my life, flying down that glorious hill.’

The subtlety of ‘One Crazy Summer’ is, I think, its greatest strength. It’s small details like this moment of fun and the memories I mentioned, that Delphine has about Cecile, that build up into a picture explaining how people feel, and what they’ve faced. These moments are much more effective than a big speech about feminism, or a row about Delphine’s lost years of being a kid. The reader is allowed to make the connection between Cecile’s idea that Delphine could stand to be more selfish and the positive aspects of selfishness, on their own.

There’s a lot more going on in this small novel than the one significant relationship I’ve talked about. The girls get lessons in civil rights, they fight, go on a sightseeing trip and there’s a bit of drama at the end with a police informant at a protest rally. I’ve focused on Delphine and Nzilla because I think they’re the core that the rest of the novel revolves around, but I wonder which part of this novel others were most interested in. Care to share?

Thanks so much to Ana from The Book Smugglers for giving me a copy of this book.

1Unrelated moan: Am I alone in finding a whole range of lauded, but easily accessible adult fiction kind of uninspiring right now? I mean, these books are a fine way to pass a lazy Sunday, but around 250 pages in they start to make me feel sluggish, like I’ve eaten too much roast dinner. When I get to the end I feel like I have very little to say about them.

2 That sets her at odds with her mother who says:‘ “It’s my name. My self. I can name my self. And if I’m not the one I was but am now a new self, why would I call myself by an old name?” ’ There’s quite a bit about the importance of names, placed subtly here and there in this novel, which should delight fantasy fans who are into understanding the power of naming.

3Her blog ‘Fat Girl, Reading’ seems to have unfortunately disappeared while I wasn’t checking blogs : ( (Edit - No it hadn't, thanks to Renay for checking)

Other Reviews

The Book Smugglers
Reading in Color
Colour Online
Fat Girl, Reading

Bonus: Zetta Elliot posted a series of interview questions with Rita Williams Garcia about ‘One Crazy Summer’ last year. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 are available on her blog.


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